May 2012 Gospel for Asia
On This Trash Heap They'll Build Their Church
Villagers watched the believers walk around the local trash heap. They already thought the Gospel for Asia-supported church was foolish because they worshiped their God in a tent, and now these Christians were walking around in a wasteland. But as time passed, the villagers were surprised by what they saw.
Among the spectators were some lukewarm Christians who wanted to leave behind their lifeless churches, where alcoholism runs rampant and some members still visit temples and go on religious pilgrimages. Many in those congregations live totally separated from God.
These nominal Christians watching knew the believers in our church embraced repentance and that the Lord answered their prayers. But there was something holding them back from joining the fellowship.
South Asian culture gauges a religion's worth in part by its place of worship—and this GFA-supported church met in a tent. Villagers gave little respect to this fellowship because they figured if their God was so great, He would have a better house.
The nominal Christians were afraid to leave behind their nice church buildings to find out what made our fellowship different, so they stayed in their comfortable pews—with little hope of truly knowing Christ.
The tent the believers were gathering in each Sunday was the best accommodation they could find. When the fellowship started two years before, they met in a small room in a rented house. When Pastor Monish began shepherding the fellowship of 10 believers, he built a thatch tent up against the side of the rented house and moved the cramped fellowship there.
The church needed to move outdoors to have space to grow, but in doing so, they also gave up shelter. Their South Asian region has a heavy monsoon season, and the skies dump rain—even on Sundays.
Beyond this physical hindrance to worship, there was an even greater reason to construct a church building. The believers' neighbors needed to truly know Christ, but few were going to come out for a church service in a makeshift tent, let alone in the rain. The fellowship, now 30 in number, began praying and fasting once a week for a building.
To build a church, the believers needed land. In many parts of Asia, it's difficult to find available property—but there was one man who was more than willing to sell his land.
The man owned a plot of land that was hardly ideal for construction. On one side, it had a rocky hill 25 feet tall, and on the other side, there was a trench dug eight feet into the ground. To make matters worse, the villagers dumped their trash on this piece of property. The landowner wanted to get rid of it.
So, two years after the fellowship began to pray and fast, Pastor Monish received money—given by believers all around the world—to buy the plot of land for his fellowship. They continued to pray and fast and also began to improve the land.
As villagers watched, the believers carried all the trash away. With money they had raised among themselves, they brought in a small tractor and moved mud from the hill into the trench.
Again with their own money, the Christians purchased soil to fill in the rest of the trench. Because the truck carrying the soil couldn't drive right up to the trench, the believers carried the dirt basket by basket.
They used rock from the hill to lay a foundation for their church. Pastor Monish, having been a mason, even used some stones to build a retaining wall against the hill.
As the villagers watched the believers' progress, they were surprised to realize the fellowship had turned this wasteland into the best, most spacious land in the entire village.
After five years of working on leveling the land, the fellowship was ready to build their church. The fellowship once again received funding from believers around the world. With it, they bought building materials and, as with many of our churches, began construction themselves.
A year later, the fellowship had a building they could call their own. For a fraction of the cost of a Western church, their church home fits in with the culture of the area.
They've gained respect in the eyes of the other villagers. This respect, however, is much more than a sense of dignity. It's a tool to share the Good News.
When the church building was completed, three families joined Pastor Monish's congregation!
If the fellowship still met in the rented room, there wouldn't have been enough space for these new families. And, if the church had never moved out of the thatch tent, the families probably wouldn't have even come, both because of the cultural disregard for a religion whose God didn't have His own building and because of the lack of shelter.
Today there is a sign outside of this church inviting villagers to join the worship services. If they do, they'll learn about the God who gives life to Pastor Monish's fellowship.
The people who first watched the believers carry trash around were surprised to see a beautiful plot of land develop. Maybe soon they'll be surprised by what they see inside the church, too.
Show villagers the God who gives life. Help build a church today.
Published 2012 Gospel for Asia